(Bloomberg) — The U.S. is close to administering Covid-19 vaccinations at a pace of a million doses a day, suggesting that the Biden administration’s 100-million-doses-in-100-days goal may be a modest aspiration.
As of Thursday, 940,000 shots a day were administered on average over a seven-day period, according to data from the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. The most recent two days topped a million doses.
Biden’s goal, essentially, is to not backslide. He made it a theme of his presidential campaign to criticize the prior administration’s handling of the pandemic—including the vaccine rollout that fell far short of then-President Donald Trump’s promises. At the current rate of roughly 1 million shots a day, it would take almost 18 months to vaccinate 80% of the U.S. population.
“God willing, we’re not only going to do 100 million, we’re going to do more than that,” Biden said at the White House on Friday.
Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Thursday that vaccinating 70% to 85% of the country by the end of the summer would enable a return to normalcy. To do so would mean administering 460 million to 560 million doses, since the current vaccines require a first shot followed by a booster. That’s more than double the rate of Biden’s 100-day goal.
Biden is “taking into account everything that could go right—and also what could go wrong—and he’s making a measured decision about what target we should aim for,” said Vivek Murthy, Biden’s pick for U.S. Surgeon General. “But make no mistake, his goal is not only to meet that, but it’s to exceed that. But we’ve got to pull out the stops.”
Pressed on the 100-million-dose goal on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained the math behind the administration’s thinking. She said that under Trump, 17 million doses had been administered in the first 38 days, for an average rate of less than 500,000 a day, and Biden’s team hoped to double that.
Bloomberg’s data show that the rate has increased substantially since the first weeks of the rollout. A more ambitious plan would be to double the current rate of vaccinations—not the average rate during the early phase of vaccine distribution. That’s what some Republicans have called for.
“America is already on track for 100 million in 100 days,” Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican leader, said on Twitter. “Biden could do 200 million in 100 days. Republicans would support it. Thanks to Trump, he’s already halfway there.”
56.7 Million Shots Worldwide: Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker
In the early days of the vaccination campaign, doses were being administered at a trickle. By the time Biden took office, the federal government was making more than 8 million doses a week available through its distribution program, according to allocation figures from the Health and Human Services Department. Shots are going into arms almost as fast.
Those figures include first and second doses of Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.’s vaccines. In total, the U.S. has made available 65 million doses that can be ordered through the end of January and that will ship over the following weeks. Of those, almost 40 million have already been shipped, according to the CDC.
The U.S. spent more than any country in the world to help speed up the development and deployment of vaccines. It secured more than 1 billion doses from six companies before any of the shots had been approved. For all the criticism that has been directed at the early fumbles of the vaccine rollout, the U.S. still leads the world in shots administered and is fifth in the world on per-capita basis.
U.S. Ranks Fifth in Shots Per Capita
The Trump administration also set ambitious goals, aiming to have hundreds of millions of doses available by the end of 2020 and a rapid pace of vaccinations to follow. It reduced those targets after not having as much vaccine available as it had hoped.
“You fail to achieve a hundred percent of the goals that you do not set,” Alex Azar, the Trump administration’s health secretary, said in an interview last month. He said the administration’s revised goals for 2021 were to ensure enough vaccines are available for every American who wanted one.
The accelerating vaccination campaign isn’t without problems. States have said they get little long-term visibility into the supply they’re being offered and that there can be significant delays between when the CDC says doses are shipped and when they actually arrive. States like West Virginia and North Dakota are running on thin cushions of vaccine supply, having used up more than 70% of the shots shipped to them.
“There are many problems. We will tackle them and meet our bold goal of 100m shots in 100 days,” Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, said on Twitter Friday morning. “It won’t be easy, smooth or without setbacks. But we will get it done.”
New vaccines coming
Vaccine supply and the pace of vaccinations could accelerate rapidly when new shots are cleared for use. A vaccine by Johnson & Johnson has enough data to begin analyzing now, and could have results in a week or two, Fauci said this week. The Food and Drug Administration has moved within days to authorize vaccine applications based on early results.
The U.S. has secured contracts with J&J for enough vaccine to inoculate 100 million people—the same as its agreements with Pfizer and Moderna. Unlike the two vaccines that are currently available in the U.S., J&J’s vaccine requires only one dose — which could accelerate the pace of vaccinations. It also can be stored in standard refrigerators, unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which requires special freezers to keep temperatures below -94 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two other vaccines, from AstraZeneca Plc and Novavax Inc., have yet to be cleared for use in the U.S. but could add hundreds of millions of additional doses to the effort to stop the pandemic.
Read more from Bloomberg’s Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker
((Updates with Biden comments in the fourth paragraph.))
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